cognitive dissonance

In the last month, the following things have happened:

- Buster has smiled and laughed after meeting my eye across the room.

- Chicken reached out and held Buster's hand as we sat together in an armchair. "I'm holdin' on," he said.

- Who could forget this little gem?

- We weathered Chicken's nap strike and Buster's 4-month sleep regression, and successfully moved Buster to a crib from a rock'n'play.

- My husband came home from a hunting weekend, tired but healthy and safe.
I have been blessed beyond measure with a beautiful, bright, hilarious, loving family. They make me so, so happy.

Confession:
My happiest moment in recent memory?
I was alone.
I was running on a cool, sunny Sunday. The air was cold in my throat and I felt my body working, performing the simple task of propelling itself through space and time with no distraction.
I had Big Boi and Britney Spears on my playlist and I didn't have to keep my mind or my eyes on any other living creature. 

I can't help but feel both confused and guilty. My family is what makes me happiest. Yet my most happy time was when I had successfully broken away from them.

What does that make me? Deluded? Brainwashed? Ambivalent about my irreversible life choices?

I don't know.

Every day I have two thoughts running through my mind at the exact same speed, side-by-side.

The first: I am so madly in love with my family. Nothing has ever made me this happy. Nothing has ever given my life such meaning. I must do this well. 

The second: Get me the fuck out of here. How soon can I go somewhere and leave these people behind?

I recently read I Don't Care What You Think: 5 Reasons I Don't Want Kids. After my initial defensive response of "why are you being so mean to me?" I had that same neck-and-neck thought-race.

I’m not interested in tearing my body apart for the so-called “miracle of life,” which is really just a euphemism for “sex I will be paying for during the next 18 to 25 years of my life.”

First thought: You're right. You are so, so right. Pregnancy can be horrible, head-to-toe, inside and out. It's incredibly invasive and destructive, being colonized by a selfish being that's dead-set on sucking down all of your body's resources. The swollen feet, shortness of breath, inevitable hoo-ha damage of varying degrees, giant boobs that start to head south - these are all the stereotypes of pregnancy and childbirth because they are true. And it sucks.

Second thought: My body made a person. When I say I was pregnant, what I mean is that my body took two cells, and made four, and then made billions, out of energy and blood and matter, that grew together into a complex system encased in a perfect, soft little body. 

My body spat out a creature that was fucking turn-key ready, totally complete, perfectly designed to exist in a world that it met for the first time after it had already been completed. There are some things more miraculous than the perkiness of one's rack.

I do not want children because I value my freedom too much.

First thought: You're right. You are so, so right. To have children means you give up the freedom to hop on the next flight to Cabo, the liberty to stay out late and see where the night takes you, the tetherlessness of people you see riding their bikes on Saturday afternoon during nap time. You give up the driver's seat of your days and nights, because that glorious creature that your body created from scratch, it has needs and does not yet know the definition of "convenience."

Second thought: The thing is, to paraphrase "When Harry Met Sally..." we never did hop the next plane to Cabo, and we very rarely stayed out late to see where the night took us. We don't even have bikes. When I make the list of what I gave up to have children, that list looks a lot like imaginary adventures, things I wanted to do but had no concrete plans of achieving anytime soon. 

Before I had children, Ryan and I had two work schedules and budgets and limited vacation time - it's not like we were fucking living like island-hopping Italian playboys and then all of a sudden a baby turned us into cockney-speaking, stone-stair-scrubbing joyless drones. 

...babies are watermelon sized aliens that are only good at five things, and I use the word good very loosely because sometimes they even struggle with these things: eating, pooping, peeing, crying and the worst, staring. It’s just rude.

First thought: You're right. You are so, so right. They're sea sponges. They grew for the better part of a year, sleeping upside-down in a slimy hot tub. And now that they're out, they don't necessarily seem like they should be. Floppy, cranky, needy, crusty, curled-up... yes, they are weird as hell and totally foreign.

Second thought: But then they learn how to smile. Then they learn how to call for you, say "I love you," laugh at your funny faces, reach for your hand.  They grow senses of humor and empathy. They grow first reckless and then cautious, which is its own life cycle that totally breaks your heart and leaves you both devastated and proud. They get good at lots of amazing things. And you get to be there to watch it all happen. It's like a full season of "The Voice," only it's "The Life," and you're Adam Levine except less of a douche.

If there were a hell, mine would be daycare. Taking care of snotty-nosed, whining, messy kids all day just sounds awful. Doing that as a mother on a daily basis sounds worse.

First thought: You're right. You're so, so right. That is hell. HELL. And some days my life is HELL. Every day, at some point, both my children are crying and I think this is a house of screaming  and I am fucking this up terribly  and I wish my mom were here so I could leave and how early is too early for hard alcohol and I'm so sad. 

Second thought: They're really only snotty-nosed for a few months out of the year. The whining thing, well, I'm told they grow out of it, and messy... well... yeah, but I'm messy too, so I'm not about to throw stones, unless it's on the floor of my bathroom where they will sit, not-swept-up, until about four minutes before someone is due to arrive at our house for dinner, and then I'll be like who the fuck threw these stones on the floor and left them here jesus we are all such slobs. 

There are a few minutes out of every day that feel like the worst few minutes of my life, no exaggeration. But then the kids start dancing to Ke$ha or ask for cereal with an adorable speech impediment, or bring tissues to a friend who is sad. They are unbelievably trying. They are endlessly fascinating. Every day it's awful but every day it's wonderful too.

Just watch the news; is it really worth bringing a child into a world like that? 

First thought: You're right. You are so, so right. I don't know a single parent who hasn't stayed up late fearing the worst, able to see all too clearly what Michael Chabon calls the invisible river of peril through which your children must pass every day. Car crashes, poisoned baby food, Ebola, kidnappings, school shootings, fuuuuuck I can feel my chest getting tight just thinking about this. 

Elizabeth Stone is oft-quoted as saying, Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. Yeah, momentous is one word for it. Fucking masochistic is another word. This world is sharp and scary and I am afraid every single day, terrified every day. How can one mama keep her child safe, safe and sound, unfazed, unscarred, un-maimed in a world that doesn't give a flying fuck if he lives or dies?

Second thought: From Finding Nemo:

Marlin: I promised I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmm. That's a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

It's unbearable to consider a tragedy hitting my family. 
It's more unbearable to consider not having my family in the first place.
 
The world is the world, and I'll control what I can, but at the end of the day the most important question I can ask myself is this:

Nobody gets out alive. Am I willing to worry about something that is definitely going to happen, for all the precious days and moments I have with the people I love? Am I going to spend my whole road trip worrying about when I'll run out of gas? 

I think I'm going to roll down the window, turn up the Big Boi and Britney, and smile.

The author has a lot of great reasons for not wanting to have kids. I agree with every single one of them. And if the author somehow strays into reading this blog post, I want to reassure her: I would never presume to tell you that you'll change your mind, or make some kind of statement about whether or not I approve of your choice. You can have kids or not, and I really don't care. 

So while I agree with every single one of her reasons for not having kids, the problem is, I went and got myself knocked up (twice) and now I can't help but disagree with every single one of them too. 

What does that make me? 

Deluded?

Confused? 

Stuck? 

Ambivalent about my irreversible life choices?

It makes me a mom. An honest mom.

It makes me want to go for a run.

And come home.

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